By Cristina Paolozzi, June 30 2021—
Calgary’s next municipal election takes place on October 18, and eight candidates are running for Ward 7 councillor this year.
Moving to Calgary from Vancouver in 1982, Wong worked in hospital management, eventually working for the city of Calgary as a manager for business planning and budgeting for 30 years. After his retirement, Wong started his own consultant company and one of his first projects was setting up a business improvement area in Chinatown. This business improvement area was a way for Wong to help revitalize Chinatown, but also ensured the cultural preservation of Chinatown in Calgary.
Wong believes the work he is already doing in the community is exactly the kind of change that the city needs this municipal election.
“Most people want councillors to be representative of their communities, to be advocates for taxpayers,” Wong said. “They’re getting tired that council is more focused on what [city council] thinks Calgary wants and needs.”
When speaking on student issues specifically, Wong notes that housing is a major concern for many people living in Ward 7. Wong believes that students are looking for safe and affordable housing in the city, as well as accessibility and reliability of transit to support students travelling around Calgary.
“Students are looking for affordable housing, quality housing, housing that is safe and secure,” said Wong. “And we want to ensure that students can get around — whether it be for their education purposes or social engagements or for a part time job.”
The idea of creating a sense of vibrancy in the city has been very prevalent in many candidate’s platforms. Wong’s idea of a vibrant city rests on the three A’s and the four V’s — availability, accessibility, affordability, vibrancy, vitality, visual appeal and value. With these points in mind, creating a strategic plan to help grow the city becomes more structured and responds more accurately to what citizens are looking for coming out of this election, according to Wong.
“To me, when people talk about [vibrancy], it’s too easy to put platitudes and too easy to put pipe dreams out there,” said Wong. “It’s more important to say, ‘What does that look like? How do you achieve it? And how do you ensure that people enjoy it?’”
Ultimately, Wong said that making a city that is accessible, available, affordable, vibrant, vital, valuable and visually appealing largely has to do with creating a relationship with citizens and understanding what they want in their city.
“It all starts with understanding,” said Wong. “Understanding your consumer, understanding your constituents, understanding the citizens and what they want and donating to that expectation.”
Bigger projects in the city like the Green Line will ultimately have an impact not only across Calgary, but will specifically target students and their ability to move around the city, or find employment. When asked how Wong plans to incorporate students into these city-wide conversations, he said that he plans to interact directly with community associations in the area as well as the student associations at the University of Calgary, SAIT and Alberta University of the Arts.
“I want to create what I call a council of community associations, where on a month by month basis, either me or someone in my office meets with [these associations] on a regular basis,” said Wong. “Same thing goes with connecting with the University of Calgary, SAIT and the Alberta University of the Arts, which are within Ward 7.”
Wong believes the best way to get student voices heard on City Council is to create a dialogue with students on what kinds of changes they want to see in the city, and being open to collaboration with the student community.
“It’s about ensuring that these post secondary institutions know that they’re being heard in terms of what infrastructure we can provide,” said Wong. “It’s also about connecting with the student associations to say, ‘How can we create a student life that is pretty clear, accessible and affordable.’”
As a result of the pandemic, and the fluctuating economy in Alberta, young people in the city are experiencing difficulty finding relevant job experiences, and are quick to find employment away from Calgary in other major cities across the country.
In order to encourage students to stay in the city, Wong believes that supporting old industries and encouraging new industries in Calgary is a priority to help students find relevant employment after graduation. Wong also believes that creating a sense of stability in the workforce through more work experience opportunities is also key to avoiding these boom and bust cycles found in Calgary specifically.
“The growth of the industry comes with the recycling of their workforce,” said Wong. “Through these work experience opportunities, then maybe you’ll find the next generation of people who will succeed and move into organizations — rather than have these peaks and valleys, we have the constant regeneration of their workforce.”
Wong encourages students to get involved this municipal election, and said that it is everyone’s responsibility to voice your concerns to see changes within the city.
“If we want a great community, if we want a great city for a transportation system, people need to stand up and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s keeping me up at night. How can we make it happen?'” said Wong. “And as a diverse community, we need to respect that everyone comes with different sets of needs and wants — the question is, rather than blame, how can you make a difference?”
Wong predicts that citizens are looking for someone to represent the changing landscape in Calgary this election cycle.
“Calgarians, and I’m sure students, want people with that pragmatic, practical experience.”
The municipal general election will take place on October 18, 2021. For more information about Terry Wong, or the other Ward 7 candidates, you can find out how to contact them here.